By Crystal Harrell

As COVID cases continue to surge and are expected to increase through the holiday season, the City of Rancho Mirage has just opened its first drive-through COVID-19 testing site on Tuesday, December 1.

The drive-through testing site is located at the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory’s west parking lot. Scheduling an appointment ahead of time is still recommended, and online appointments with date/time/location information can be found by going to curative.com. Appointment slots open about 3 to 4 days in advance.

Testing will take place five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through December 31. Tests are free, contactless, and self-administered through Curative, which has completed more than six million such tests in 15 states across the United States.

The partnership between the City of Rancho Mirage and Curative will provide quick, easy, self-administered, painless oral fluid PCR COVID-19 testing at no-cost to Rancho Mirage residents and surrounding communities.

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The test is of no charge. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the U.S., including those without insurance. There will be no copay charged for taking a COVID-19 test.

Curative’s self-collected, painless oral fluid PCR COVID-19 test involves having a person first cough into their elbow or mask, which releases virus from the upper and lower respiratory tract. The person then swabs the teeth, inside of the cheeks, and the roof of the mouth before sealing the test within a secure container and returning it to a Curative observer.

Curative is a COVID-19 testing company that aims to transform healthcare delivery. Curative Inc. was founded to develop sepsis tests in January 2020 and pivoted to COVID-19 in early March 2020 upon realizing the urgent need for test development and production in the United States.

“The City Council of Rancho Mirage has been looking for ways in which to assist our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to easy testing has been a priority for many months now. The City of Rancho Mirage and our public library are centrally located to accommodate free and easy access to COVID-19 testing. We are proud to partner with Curative on providing this drive-through testing for residents and neighboring cities. Regular testing is vital to help protect those we care about, aids our public health officials, and helps our business community,” stated City Manager Isaiah Hagerman.

Father Christmas himself also made an appearance in Rancho Mirage to get a COVID-19 oral fluid PCR test. Santa Claus was the first to get the test before the site opened to the public, as even though he was not experiencing any symptoms, he is testing regularly as part of his commitment to keep the 2020 holidays safe and help our economy reopen.

“Testing for COVID-19 helps to find cases, contain the spread, and ultimately reopen businesses. Whether you have symptoms or not, getting tested helps protect your family, co-workers, and friends who could be at risk,” said Santa.

The drive-through testing facility is located in the parking lot at the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory, 71100 Hwy 111, Rancho Mirage.


Mr. and Mrs. Claus of the Coachella Valley

The famous Christmas song says that Santa Claus is coming to town, but St. Nick and the missus are already in the Coachella Valley, spreading holiday cheer even during a Grinch-like year. Gregory and Laura Little are doing their part to create some Christmas magic by continuing their annual tradition of dressing up as Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Greg and Laura started donning their festive apparel 10 years ago, when their children were in middle school. Laura attended a PTO meeting where they were asking for volunteers to dress up as Santa for a school fundraiser at the bookstore at the mall. She volunteered Greg to wear the Santa suit they provided for half an hour. While Greg was initially not happy about playing Santa, he ended up enjoying it and even wanted to do it again. The year after that, one of their friends needed a volunteer and had a Santa suit, so they signed Greg up to perform his Santa duties again.

“The surprising thing we learned pretty quickly is how flirtatious some women are with Santa, so partially because I was feeling protective and partially because I had FOMO, I decided to be Mrs. Claus,” revealed Laura.

The two continued to make appearances for parties and events, using loaner costumes for Santa for the first couple of years. It was only until they realized that we were committed that they bought a good suit, real Santa boots, and a belt. Laura made her own costume out of a red bridesmaid dress that she altered and accessorized into her version of a modern Mrs. Claus. Her mother helped her make a new dress from scratch last year that she currently wears.

One of their mainstay appearances early on was for Santa photos at It’s A Grind (before it was Sip).  Greg and Laura have also been Santa on ice skates year after year with a group of kids whose parents play hockey together, read Christmas stories to kids with the Real Moms of the Coachella Valley group, and have done the Scout Pancake Breakfast for several years. When Laura worked at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, she also did “story time with Mrs. Claus” every Saturday in season.

“Watching people smile is the best part of dressing up as Santa. If I can make somebody’s day brighter, it’s a good day. It’s always fun to surprise people as well,” said Greg.

This year, Greg and Laura are also supporting the message about the importance of COVID testing, with Santa even going to get his COVID test at the new Rancho Mirage testing site on opening day. The couple came up with the idea of Santa Drive-bys. They took the doors off their green Jeep and decorated it like an alternate Santa sleigh by filling it with wrapped boxes and stuffed animals. They also made a survey online to see who wanted a drive-by visit, asking for the address, names of kids, days of availability, and a checkbox about agreeing to stay 6+ feet from the Jeep.

“Everyone seems to have COVID fatigue. Our local economy that is so dependent on tourism has been pummeled. People are out of work. By now, we all know someone who has been sick, many of us know someone who has died. It feels like the final straw that COVID is going to mess up Christmas, too. We want to spread joy and cheer in a safe way,” stated Laura.

Greg and Laura are working with the Family YMCA of the Desert for a fundraising campaign where, if you make a donation to the Y in the amount of $50, you can fill out a letter to Santa and receive a video reply. More information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-family-ymca-of-the-desert-presents-letters-to-santa-2020-tickets-130605248815

If you are interested in making a donation to support the Family YMCA of the Desert, their donation link is here: https://donate.ymcaofthedesert.org/login.

Photos by Kurt Schawacker